Brooke the therapy dog, a golden retriever sporting a red bandana. With recent headlines alluding to dental phobias being passed on to children by their parents, a new concept known as dog therapy aims to ease the nerves of anxious and fearful patients.

Dentophobia, otherwise known as the fear of dentists, isn't a new concept at all – in fact, it's one of the most common phobias and affects people of all ages. Children can develop dentophobia by hearing stories from friends, family and watching programs that sensationalize the extent of dental procedures.

Luckily, more and more dentists are incorporating dog therapy into their practice to help ease the anxiety younger patients may have. Dr. Paul A. Weiss, a pediatric dentist in Williamsville, New York has seen a truly positive impact on his practice since the addition of his therapy dog, Brooke. “Brooke definitely changes the energy in the office with her personality,” Weiss says. “She elicits a playful, fun, accepting and happy energy that permeates the staff and the patients.”

Dr. Weiss brings Brooke into the office every Wednesday and Thursday morning where she hangs out with the staff and plays with young patients to take their mind off the dental visit. When it's time for a procedure, Brooke joins Dr. Weiss and the patient by either sitting chairside enabling the patient to pet her throughout the procedure, or she just curls up on their lap until the procedure is over. Weiss explains, “The kids relax playing fetch with her in the reception area and petting her when they are in the chair. It gives them another reason to look forward to a return visit.”

For dentists interested in adding a therapy dog to their staff, Dr. Weiss has a few pointers: “The temperament of the dog is very important. The dog must not be startled by loud noises or annoyed by rough handling.” Dentists can visit the Therapy Dogs International (TDI) website and take a test to see how well their dog will perform during a dental visit.

Regarding health risks, Dr. Weiss only performs clean procedures in his office and advises other dentists to not bring a dental dog into a sterile environment where open wound surgical procedures are done. According to Weiss, simple restorations and prophys on kids are considered clean procedures and there should be no issues with a clean therapy dog.

A therapy dog could be a great addition to any dentist's practice especially if patients are aware of the days the dog will be there. Appointments will be made and rarely rescheduled since patients don't wouldn't want to lose their spot to see a dog like Brooke on their visit.

A special thanks to Dr. Paul A. Weiss for sharing the story of his practice. [ ]


Commenter's Profile Image Ellen Pacleb DDS
December 5th, 2014
I'm thinking of incorporating a therapy dog into our office in Berkeley. I was wondering if you had any additional pointers for me? We don't currently have a dog and have the opportunity to choose the best candidate, based on the correct criteria. Any helpful guidance would be mush appreciated. It's superb to see you getting the word out about this great option for patients. Thank You, Ellen